Following the Supreme Court’s last week verdict to remove Nawaz Sharif as the party leader, Pakistan’s ruling party has now chosen the leader’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif as its president.
“A meeting of the party’s General Council will be held on March 6, which would elect Shahbaz as the permanent president,” said senior party official Mushahidullah Khan.
“Nawaz Sharif will work as a life leader of the party.”
Despite his legal troubles, the 68-year-old has maintained a tight grip on the party and in a move that could be considered as challenging the judiciary after the verdict of his removal, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) elected Nawaz as the “leader for life”.
Last year, Pakistan’s top court had put an end to Sharif’s third stint in power for not disclosing a small source of income and the former leader could end up in jail if he is convicted in a separate corruption trial expected to wind up soon.
Meanwhile, Shahbaz’s promotion the as party president has further fueled rumours that he will replace loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister if the party comes back to power at the general elections due this year.
Shahbaz, 66, is the chief minister of the vast province of Punjab and has a reputation of a competent administrator who gets things done, especially infrastructure mega projects that are the foundation of the party’s appeal.
Relations between the judiciary and PML-N have crashed since Sharif’s removal in July, with several party officials facing contempt of court notices.
The veteran leader and party officials have called the Supreme Court verdicts a political conspiracy, indicating that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment is working against them because Sharif challenged their power but the military denies playing a role.
Nawaz Sharif had served as prime minister twice before and was removed from office each time – in 1993 by a presidential order and in 1999, by a military coup that saw him jailed and later exiled.